Progress is a process. Every profession requires you to work your way up. Those who take shortcuts often find they do not have the experience they need to stay there. It may seem like Danny Boy Collins had his success handed to him. That only made him work harder to earn what he already had.
Daniel Collins was born in Bristol, England. He was a fan of wrestling for as long as he could remember. He watched it on television on with his parents every Saturday since he was ten years old. He knew this was what he wanted to do. Collins competed in amateur wrestling because he thought it would bring him closer to his dream when the time came.
He poured himself into the sport and became an accomplished grappler. His five years of experience on the mats made stepping into the ring happen a lot sooner than he had expected.
Danny Boy Collins
He made his professional debut in 1983 against Adrian Finch. He was only fifteen-years-old, and still in school. His small size and lack of training should have put him at a distinct disadvantage. From his first outing, he showed a level of ingenuity that was more common with experienced performers.
Collins would use unorthodox transitions into traditional amateur takedowns and holds. He had barely finished his final exams when he moved into an apartment in London to pursue his dream properly. He would be trained by Roy Harley and Stan Osborne.
At only sixteen, Danny Boy Collins had already achieved one of his greatest dreams. Like the rest of the nation, he watched World of Sport every Saturday afternoon. It compiled footage and highlights from popular sports that would not normally get the same coverage on television. It scored the highest ratings of any program throughout its run.
And it was no secret that it was the wrestling that attracted the viewers. Even members of the Royal Family and parliament openly admitted to being fans of big stars like “Big Daddy” Shirley Crabtree. And now, Collins had been invited to compete alongside them on television.Collins admitted to being star-struck during his time there. The people he idolized were now his co-workers. He had been a fan of everybody, whether they were blue-eyes (babyfaces) or heels, heavyweight or welterweight, local or visiting. He was working with prolific champions from the very beginning. He had spent several years wishing he could step into the ring with his heroes on WoS. Now millions across the United Kingdom were seeing it happen. This was a lot for the youngster to take in.
His first televised match was a loss to “Crybaby” Jim Breaks. Little did viewers know at the time, but this was the beginning of a major push. Danny Boy Collins was immediately booked as an underdog blue-eye. He was touted in the press as “Britain’s youngest professional wrestler” (there were others who turned pro at fifteen, but this was greatly played down during that era).
His small size and youth made male fans sympathetic towards him when he got beaten down by bullies like Breaks. His appearance and physique made him popular among female fans. Collins and Breaks would collide in a series of increasingly higher-profile matches. To the surprise of many, the veteran villain would never score a second victory over the rising rookie.The more they clashed, the less Collins’ victories depended on luck and came down to skill. The rewards were bigger each time. The grandest prize in their feud was the British Welterweight Championship that Breaks had become synonymous with. His eighth and final reign ended with Collins taking the gold, at age sixteen.
“I was terrified, to be honest with you. I was sixteen and had just left school. In actual fact, I was fifteen when I first turned pro. One day I was in school, and the next day I was living in Brixton in London. I was just this teenage kid that suddenly was thrown in the ring with this superstar that I’d seen all over the world.
Some of the guys I had admired all of my life and been to the shows to watch them. Suddenly I was in the ring with them. I was put in against Jimmy Breaks, one of the most formidable villains in British wrestling. And there I was; sixteen years old, about 9st wet through, absolutely terrified. But I had to stand up to it, and that’s exactly what I did. And I won the welterweight Championship from him.”
– Collins on winning the British Welterweight Championship.
It can take time for fans to warm to a babyface. Sometimes promoters will try to speed up the process by partnering them with an already popular star. For Collins, he got the rub from the biggest the U.K. had to offer. He frequently competed in a tag team with Big Daddy.
The teenager would be easy fodder for the larger villains on the other team. Just as he was on the verge of defeat, he would tag out to Big Daddy. The villains never stood a chance once Big Daddy got going. Each time Danny Boy Collins had his hand raised because Big Daddy, his own star, shone even brighter.That is not to say that Collins could not hold his own. He managed to stand on his own two feet by leaving them often. He had been inspired by smaller wrestlers like “The Dynamite Kid” Tom Billington. Like his inspiration, he was often smaller than his opponents. He focused on being a high-flyer that dazzled them with his unpredictable acrobatics and grappling techniques.
One of his favorite tricks was to use a cartwheel to escape arm-wrench attempts, just like Dynamite did. His main finishing move was the dropkick. That may not sound so impressive in the modern era. For Collins, driving both his feet into the face and chest of his oncoming rivals was enough to end the match in his favor.
Over the next year, Collins would become a fixture on the British wrestling scene. He fended off anyone who came after his Welterweight title. The only person who could truly match him was Steve Grey. They would swap the title between each other until Collins inevitably came out on top. Sid Cooper also managed to free the title from Collins’ grasp, but not for long. As he entered in to adulthood, he braced himself for the biggest moment of his career.
On May 18, 1985, millions across Britain tuned into WoS to watch soccer. The annual FA Cup Final is the UK equivalent of the NFL SuperBowl, but with fewer theatrics. This one had captured the public’s imagination like no other before. Perennial underdogs Everton had re-emerged as a dominant force.
All they had to do was beat the wounded giant Manchester United one more time. The colossal powerhouses had been struggling to regain their spark. The two sides had clashed three times during the tournament, and Man U came up short each time. History seemed to be inevitable. Fans who tuned in for the match would be treated to another possible underdog championship win.
Baron Von Chenok was the European Welterweight Champion. He toured Western Europe and turned back every challenger that was put before him. Now he was in England in the search of fresh competition. And “Danny Boy” was fed to the Baron. Like Everton, Collins was still considered to be at a disadvantage despite being so dominant over the past year.
Collins gave Chenok his toughest battle to date. It was one the Baron was not ready for. When it was all said and done, Chenok would have to return to Germany without the title he had carried for so long. For many sports fans, Collins’ victory felt better than seeing Everton fall to Manchester United an hour later.
“I remember wrestling one night; I had two ruptured discs, two broken ribs and a dislocated arm. I had to go down to Brighton on my own and defend my championship. That’s what the people don’t see.
They don’t see us in the ring injured. And they don’t see us driving home two or three hundred miles, maybe four, five, six hours after work. Then going to the gym the next day and doing the same thing. That’s what makes us professionals. And to be honest, we throve of it.”
– Collins on the physically demanding nature of wrestling.
One of wrestling’s golden rules is that defending a championship is harder than winning it. Collins thought he had already learned this lesson with the British Welterweight Championship. Now that he was the European champion, he found himself facing tougher competition on the main continent too. Among those rivals were his own brother.
Pete Collins had also been a wrestling fan since childhood. He moved out of the family home a few years before Danny would. Pete’s pathway into wrestling was quite different. When indy promoters realized that the duo were siblings, they frequently booked them as a tag team act.
It happened so often that they began to build a reputation as one of South England’s main tag teams, even though they were both singles competitors. If it had not been for Danny appearing on WoS, they could have been stuck in roles that had no future for them.
Now years later, Danny was a reputable singles champion. Pete made for a perfect foe. The brothers would do battle multiple times over the years. As the younger sibling was more famous, he would always come out on top.
A common misconception about Collins, and British wrestling in general, was that all the opportunities dried up when WoS stopped broadcasting in 1988. While wrestling was no longer on national television, the indy circuit was flourishing. Collins quickly signed with All-Star Wrestling and would compete up to six nights a week across the country.
The extra workload and hitting the gym more often caused his physique to change. He slowly moved up to heavier weight divisions. In 1989, he defeated Fit Finlay to win the British Heavy-Middleweight Championship. Then in 1991, he beat Owen Hart to become World Middleweight Champion.
“People that’s saying things like ‘It’s showbiz’, they’re people that go back into the background. They don’t actually talk to a wrestler about it. They won’t say to a wrestler, ‘Like, it’s all showbusiness’. They’re the sort of people that will back away and shy off. They won’t actually tell you those things to your face.”
– Collins on critics of wrestling.
There are many reasons why the World Wrestling Federation became the biggest wrestling promotion in the Western hemisphere. One of their smartest moves is also among the most criticized. Whenever the largest promotion in a region closed down, the WWF was quick to move in to that area and establish themselves as an alternative.
The same happened in the UK. The WWF held their first major tour in the country in 1991. Collins was one of the local talents booked to compete on this tour. A year later, the WWF partnered with Sky TV to created a UK-exclusive pay-per-view event. Collins would compete in a dark match against Alan Kilby before WWF Rampage’ went on the air.
In late 1994, Collins became a heel for the first time in his career. He turned on fellow blue-eyes Robbie Brookside and Doc Dean to initiate the change. Now going by “Dirty” Dan Collins, he started aligning himself with other heels. They included his brother Pete and veteran Drew McDonald. He and McDonald competed as a tag team across Germany and Austria.
He was forced to drop the Middleweight Championship after nearly four years due to his increasing weight. This was bad news for Kilby. Collins was now able to avenge his loss at the WWF event years earlier. By doing so, Collins became British Light-Heavyweight Champion.
The two would feud, with Kilby regaining the title several months later. Collins then began working matches in Japan as part of a cross-promotional deal with Michinoku Pro Wresting. He made two tours with M-Pro, winning the British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship while he was there. He feuded with the promotion’s top stars; Gran Hamada, The Great Sasuke, Tiger Mask, and Kaientai.
The Boy Who Made Men Out Of Opponents
Towards the end of the ‘90s, he reverted to being a blue-eye once more. This frustrated “Mr. Vain” Pete Collins. The duo resumed their earlier feud, but this one was more intense and spanned across multiple countries. McDonald also wanted revenge for Danny’s change of heart. The two maintained a kayfabe rivalry up until the Scotsman’s death.
The two never missed an opportunity to bash each other in public. But their peers understood it was all a work and they were long-time friends. The two did not get the opportunity to take their rivalry into the ring due to Danny’s back. His appearances became less frequent as his career slowly fizzled out.
Collins made a full comeback in 2007. The British wrestling scene had changed a lot in the time that he was away. He was now closer to average size due to the influx of lighter wrestlers. More of them used the same high-flying style that he did, with some being directly inspired by him.
The forty-year-old could not be happier. He rightfully saw himself as one of the originators of this style. Not only did get to work with talents that could compliment him in the ring, but he had invaluable experience that they did not have. Collins returned through a tour in All-Star Wrestling.
He mainly teamed with Dean Allmark until he worked off his ring rust. Danny Boy Collins would compete for multiple promotions around the UK, facing visiting talents from Europe and America.
“I always love seeing new guys coming into the business. I always tried to help them in the best way that I can because I remember what it was like for me when I first came in. It was tough.
I would go home bruised. Go home with broken, bones, blood all over the place. Sometimes it’s really hard to get out of bed the next day and get back into [the routine].”
– Collins on the steep learning curve in wrestling.
In 2012, Collins joined Ricky and Saraya Knight’s World Association of Wrestling (WAW). He was both a performer for the Norwich-based promotion and a trainer in the WAW Academy. He was mainly a heel in matches and was part of The Midas Touch Stable. He quickly became WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
Danny Boy Collins competed for Best of British Wrestling in March 2013. He defeated Steve Corino on their ‘Ipswich Invasion’ show. He made plans to retire that October with two matches. The first was in his new hometown of Gloucester, marking an end to his British wrestling career.
Then he would finalize his retirement with a loss to Lance Storm in Germany. As is often the case with wrestling retirements, this did not last long. He was back in the ring by December.
He opened his own wrestling school in Lincolnshire in 2014. He also continues to compete semi-regularly across the UK. In 2017, he competed in Chikara’s King of Trios tournament, which was based in Wolverhampton. As of 2018, he competes for World Pro Wrestling, a promotion set in his hometown.
Danny Boy Collins was still only a kid when he achieved things that most British wrestlers could only dream of. He knows the industry has been good to him. For those few years, he was on top, he spent the next few decades giving back to it. You can debate whether he earned the opportunities he had when the received them. There can be no disagreement that he paid it all back and earned his rightful place in British wrestling history.